Particle Hydrogels Based on Hyaluronic Acid Building Blocks

The extracellular matrix (ECM) provides tissues with the mechanical support, space, and bioactive signals needed for homeostasis or tissue repair after wounding or disease. Hydrogel based scaffolds that can match the bulk mechanical properties of the target tissue have been extensively explored as ECM mimics. Although the addition of microporosity to hydrogel scaffolds has been shown to enhance cell/tissue–material integration, the introduction of microporosity often involves harsh chemical methods, which limit bioactive signal incorporation and injectability. Particle hydrogels are an emerging platform to generate in situ forming microporous scaffolds. In this approach, μgel particles are annealed to each other to form a bulk scaffold that is porous because of the void space left by the packed microgels. In the present work, we discuss the formation of hyaluronic acid-based microfluidic generated microgels for the generation of a completely biodegradable material. The generation of particle scaffolds requires two orthogonal chemistries, one for microgel generation and one for microgel annealing and scaffold formation. Here we explore three orthogonal annealing chemistries based on an enzymatic reaction, light based radical polymerization, and amine/carboxylic acid based cross-linking to demonstrate the versatility of our particle hydrogels and explore potential physical differences between the approaches. We explore the connectivity of the generated pores, the pore area/void fraction of the resulting scaffold, the mechanical properties of the scaffold, and cell spreading within scaffolds formed with the three different annealing mechanisms.